Jun 26, 2010

1930's, Middlemarch and Diana Wynne Jones

1930's Mini-Challenge

The 1930's Mini-Challenge isn't over for another three weeks, but I thought that now might be a good time to do a link round-up of the first twenty books reviewed for the challenge. Hopefully this post will encourage those of you who haven't been able to read anything yet to do so before the 18th of July. Three weeks is plenty of time, and you know you want to! Once the challenge is over, I'll do another link round-up, and also (bribery ahoy!) draw a winner who'll get to pick one of the books reviewed.

Andreea at Passionate Booklover has been our most prolific participants to date. She's been reading her way through the Bloomsbury Group reissues, and thought that Rachel Ferguson's The Brontës Went to Woolsworth was a book that perfectly "captured a time that is long forgotten and an atmosphere full of charm and warmth".

Andreea also read Mrs Tim of the Regiment by D.E. Stevenson, which she found "engaging and lovely", and Miss Hargreaves by Frank Baker, which she declared "a hilarious book about an unusual friendship; it’s a wonderful story about creativity, the power of imagination and the its consequences." Doesn't that sound wonderful?

Last but not least, Andreea read the popular Persephone title Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: "Miss Pettigrew is an irresistible book full of memorable and naughty characters, witty dialogue and wonderful adventures. This novel is humorous, charming and intelligent and I loved everything about it."

1930's Covers

Speaking of Persephone, Shonna Froebel at Canadian Bookworm read Cheerful Weather for the Wedding by Julia Strachey and found it "an amazing little book, and hugely enjoyable"; while I read and loved Lady Rose and Mrs Memmary by Ruby Ferguson.

The 1930's were a decade in which several memorable classics were written. Susi at The Book Affair read P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins, but sadly she wasn't too impressed: "Overall," she says, "the book had its perks, but it also had many downfalls." Jessica at Park Benches & Bookends had much better luck with Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald: "The overall impression that I got was that Fitzgerald really did pour everything he had into this novel with a stunning result. " And Mel U at The Reading Life was also impressed with Virginia Woolf's The Waves: "There is much wisdom in this work. Many passages to marvel at and savor abound in
The Waves".

Moving on to more obscure classics, Gavin at Page 247 loved Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, which is also a big favourite of mine: "Filled with dramatic and over-wrought language, all perfectly tongue in cheek, Cold Comfort Farm is great fun to read." Violet at Sill Life With Books read E.M. Delafield's The Diary of a Provincial Lady, but she wasn't a big fan: "I’m probably being way too hard on what is, essentially, a fluffy read. But, I did get tired of her moaning on about the lack of money, which was largely brought about by her own fiscal irresponsibility."

The 1930's are also known as one of the decades of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, so it's no wonder that many of our participants have been reading classic mystery novels. Birdie found the plot of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett "so lovely and complex with everyone double-crossing everyone else, and Spade keeping his balance like a tightrope artist". Margot at Joyfully Retired had this to say about Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (which happens to be my favourite read of the year so far): "There was no murder involved which was refreshing. There was still plenty of intrigue to keep any mystery buff satisfied. I loved the dialogue and the descriptions of the school and the various characters. It definitely had that 1930s feel to it." She also read Murder On the Orient Express by Agatha Christie, to which she gave an A+.

Moving away from mysteries, Fence at Susan Hated Literature reviewed Address Unknown by Katherine Kressman Taylor, an epistolary novel from 1938 that sounds incredibly intriguing: "There is such a tendency for people to believe that the Nazis were evil monsters. But they weren’t, they were simply people, like any other people. And they did such terrible terrible things. As most humans are capable of under certain circumstances. I think this comes across quite brilliantly in this novel." I can't wait to get my hands on this book, as I tend to love novels that defy the simplistic notion that we can just dismiss those who commit horrific acts as monsters.

Helen at She Reads Novel reviewed I'll Never Be Young Again, one of Daphne du Maurier's early novels, and said, "This would probably not be the best Daphne du Maurier book for a newcomer to begin with, but it’s a good choice for someone who wants to venture away from Rebecca and read one of her less popular novels." And Buried in Print made me want to read Winifred Holtby’s South Riding by saying "...details make the stuff of good stories in the hands of a novelist like Winifred Holtby."

Violet read Esther’s Inheritance by Sándor Márai, a Hungarian novel from 1939 that has been recently translated into English: "I enjoyed Esther’s Inheritance, although I did find it a bit frustrating: if I were Esther, I would have kicked Lajos to the kerb, because he (and fascism) were nasty bits of work."

Finally, don't forget that books that aren't from the 1930's but are set then also count. Susi read Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day (another favourite of mine), which is set both before and after WW2. Susi said, "I had a hard time connecting with the protagonist, even though the writing style of the book is brilliant. I recommend this book to everyone, just because I’m a huge fan of Ishiguro’s novels and I think everyone should read [him]." And I read The Group by Mary McCarthy, a novel from the 1960's that follows a group of Vassar graduates in 1930's New York.

That's everything for now - don't forget to add your reviews to the mini-challenge Mr Linky to be included in the final round-up, as well as in the giveaway of one of the books reviewed for the challenge.

Middlemarch ReadalongTwo more things: first, by popular demand I decided to move the discussion of George Eliot's Middlemarch from the week of the 2nd to the 7th of August to the week of the 23rd to the 29th. I hope this won't inconvenience anyone - I figured that those who have finished by early August could always schedule their posts for a few weeks later, and the extra time would give people who'd otherwise be unable to join in the chance to participate.

Diana Wynne Jones WeekAnd speaking of awesome things happening in August, have you noticed that Jenny will be hosting a week-long tribute to the wonderful Diana Wynne Jones? It's actually in the first week of August, so that's one more reason to postpone Middlemarch. Please click over to Jenny's blog for more details. And isn't the button gorgeous?


  1. This really sounds like great fun, but I promised myself no more challenges until I wrap up the ones I already joined; have fun

  2. This is such a wonderful way to link up the posts for a challenge, Ana. Seems so much more personal, and gives one an idea of what they'll actually find when they click over. I do hope I can make the time to go read every one of these reviews. (Despite what it will do to the wish list.)

  3. I'm going to bookmark your Middlemarch conversation because I'm thinking of reading this one sometime later in the year!

  4. Wow, this roundup highlights to me how much I actually do read from the 1930s. I never seem to be very aware of how my reading choices stretch. :(

    Thanks for spreading the word about Diana Wynne Jones Week. Just popped over and left a comment. Very exciting! Love her books.

  5. Middlemarch is such a great novel. I was surprised by how much I got into it.

  6. thought i d linked my review maybe messed it up ,i put blaugast link ,all the best stu

  7. Thanks for all the great links! I've been busy with school, so I still haven't read anything yet for the challenge.

    I think I'll join the Wynne-Jones week. A few people have recommended Fire and Hemlock to read.

  8. *loves D. E. Stevenson* "Mrs. Tim Carries On" is delicious too, but slightly out of the time period - goes well into WW II.

  9. Thanks for the shout-out!

    Address Unknown looks wonderful - I wish I'd read this post before going to the library, although I guess it wouldn't have done me any good as I'm at my limit of how many books I can get out. Only twenty-five! From a large fancy university library! And it's the summer! I feel like in the summer, when most of their students are away, they should get rid of their check-out limits.

    (I did get Diary of a Provincial Lady though. It's charming but smaller than I thought it would be, sadly.)

  10. Love the mid-challenge wrap-up post. I'm not participating in the challenge right now, but I've added plenty of these books to my reading wishlist. Great challenge topic :)

  11. This is great!! So many great new books to read. I did manage to read a collection of Langston Hughes' poetry that was published in the 30's but never got around to reviewing it :/ I'm really enjoying Middlemarch so far too! It's great :)

  12. Diane: Thanks :)

    Debi: I'm glad you found it useful!

    Staci: Hooray! I hope the discussion will inspire you :)

    Frances: I didn't know you were a fellow DWJ fan! I'm so looking forward to first week of August :)

    Lenore: I have a feeling I'm going to love it!

    Stu, never too late to add it!

    Vasilly: Fire and Hemlock is one of my top five (actually, make that top three, along with Tender Morsels and Middlesex) favourite books ever :) I so hope you'll enjoy it.

    Mumsy: I need to read her! I have my eye on both the Bloomsbury Group ones and on Miss Buncle's Book.

    Jenny: Twenty-five sounds like a lot to me, but that's because my former university library had a limit of five. Five! How cruel is that? And yes, Provincial Lady is short :( But there are sequels! And there's also a Virago omnibus edition that I have my eye on.

    Amanda: Thank you! I'm glad you found the round-up useful :)

    Chris: You have three weeks to read Cold Comfort Farm. Better get started ;)

  13. Thank you for the great links! I've enjoyed each and every one of Adreea's reviews for the challenge and I'll make sure to read other blogger's reviews as well :)

  14. That is a wonderful roundup, Ana!

    On the Middlemarch challenge - I got the book last week, and I am really looking forward to reading it :) Looking forward to discussing it with you and other challenge participants in August.

  15. I feel like my reading keeps skirting the 1930s. I just can't seem to settle on anything that was actually written then, or that takes place during that decade. Argh! I think I'm going to fail the challenge.

    I now remember that I want to read MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR DAY, though, so I shall check for that at my library.

  16. Oh shit! You see...I forgot about Cold Comfort Farm again already!! LOL

  17. Lua: I'm sure you'll enjoy reading the others too :)

    Vishy: Thank you! And I'm so glad you'll be joining us for the readalong :)

    Memory: From what I hear Miss Pettigrew is a quick read - plenty of time still!

    Chris: Aren't you glad I reminded you? :P

  18. Ooh, I read a book for this but did not link it! Just did so now. I don't know if I read any other books that qualify. I keep thinking Excellent Women would, but that was in the 1950s. A good generation too late. But it FEELS like the 30s ;-)

  19. thanks for mentioning me, Nymeth. It really means a lot to me. And I really enjoyed your challenge. I hope you will do another one in the future, as I love the books/genres you read!

  20. I have so enjoyed reading the reviews of books from this period; I wish I hadn't got myself into such a tight reading schedule because I would have loved to have squeezed in many more than just one from this decade for your challenge. Thanks so much for hosting!

  21. Yes! I am happy about the new dates for the Middlemarch Challenge, as I think I can certainly finish it by then. Thanks!

    Also, I am participating in the Wynne Jones challenge as well, so yay. :)

  22. Aarti: Somehow I was convinced that Excellent Women was from the 30's too :P Anyway, I'll make sure I'll include your other review in the final round-up.

    Andreea and Buried in Print: There's still two weeks two go - plenty of time ;) Seriously now, if there's enough interest I'd love to host again :) Or maybe I'll focus on the 20's next. That could be plenty of fun too.

    Christy: Hooray! I'm so glad you'll be able to join us :)


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment - interaction is one of my favourite things about blogging and a huge part of what keeps me going.